The Curious Mystery - "Night Ride Reeling" (We Creeling)
The opening minutes of We Creeling, second album from Olympia’s The Curious Mystery, don’t necessarily inspire confidence that the songs to follow will be particularly memorable. Out of a cymbal crash and a sonic swirl emerges something that sounds not unlike a precisely played sitar. It’s a musical opening that could belong on any album from the past 40-odd years, and it’s one that seems to signify “psych-rock” more so than actually demonstrating how this group will make its own foray into expansive sounds.
Thankfully, by the time of “Hear the Break,” a greater sense of The Curious Mystery’s style can be ascertained, and it’s a largely welcome one. The key mood here is a brooding slow burn, somewhere between psychedelic paranoia and the mid-’90s slowcore aesthetic. (Alternately, halfway decent musical signposts might be the Black Heart Procession and the longer, atmospheric stretches heard on Pink Floyd’s Animals.) On the album’s best songs, the complementary vocal approaches of Nicolas Gonzalez and Shana Cleveland work well. Cleveland’s voice evokes a pained sense of yearning, while Gonzalez’s summons up desolate landscapes.
For an album already abundant with layered instruments and long ambient stretches, it helps to have vocalists whose styles can match those of the players. “Space Shuffle” makes for one of We Creeling’s high points, and largely consists of Cleveland singing while an organ melody gradually increases in volume. And at times, such as on the tautly played “Blue Limits,” the bristling melodies and restrained countermelodies veer into unexpected places.
The Curious Mystery’s blend of influences isn’t always a successful one. Some of these songs seem permanently stuck in one past era or another. When the style clicks, as it does more often than not, the result finds bliss in reassembling the familiar. Like Comets on Fire and Black Mountain, The Curious Mystery help demonstrate that decades-old riffs can still be put to interesting (and compelling) use.